You may have been running around for weeks, getting everything ready for your son or daughter as they prepare to leave home for college. It's exhilarating, and your heart likely is bursting at the seams. You're probably prouder than you can say, but you're a little afraid, too. How can you make sure your kid is going to be safe at school, so far away from home? A new Bed Bath and Beyond matching sheet set for the dorm sounds great, but it just doesn't seem like quite enough, does it? So what else can you do?
Actually, there is something, probably not yet on your to-do list, that absolutely can make all the difference. Bring your child to a local estate planning attorney.
You realize that your child is no longer a child. He or she is an adult now, ready to fly solo – most of the time. But even at 18, a college student may still want her mom and dad by her side if she gets sick; but legally, decisions for medical care are hers alone. If she were unconscious from a serious car accident, a parent couldn't authorize medical care without first going to court. And it would be up to a judge, if her parent would be considered an appropriate guardian.
We don't want to worry you, but the unfortunate reality is that every year some quarter of a million people between 18 and 25 wind up in the nation's hospitals, according to Forbes, and their parents are often locked out of critical decisions.
Therefore, experts recommend that everyone over the age of 18 have a basic estate plan that includes a will or trust, a power of attorney, and medical directives that would allow someone they trust to act on their behalf if they aren't able to.
Here are some things to take care of before you send your kid away to college:
● A FERPA Release: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect college student's privacy, but it can leave parents locked out in an emergency. A properly worded release allows school officials to talk with you and release your child's records to you.
● A HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was designed protect a patient's privacy. Consider having your child sign an authorization so that—just in case—any necessary doctors can talk to you about your child's condition, care, and treatment.
● A Durable Financial Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that allows you to take care of your child's checking or savings accounts, pay bills, etc., if the child is unable to, whether due to illness or even just location (for example, if the school is on the other side of the country or the student is studying abroad).
● A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Like the financial version, this allows you to handle medical decisions for your child, if your child is unable to do so.
● A Will: At first glance, this may seem a little silly for the average broke college kid. But there could be a lot of hidden complexities: The average American has some 90 online accounts, for instance. Does your child have thoughts about who should manage and close down those social media accounts? Monitor emails? Who should get the Xbox or a bank account? It’s also a great time in your young adult’s life to instill responsibility by encouraging them to think about this early in life.
We've been helping families attain peace of mind for years. Reach out to us today to protect your new college student and your family.